Will Ag Panel Leaders Submit Recommendations to Super Committee?

October 7, 2011 03:18 AM
 
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Oct. 14 deadline, then the real work begins


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


Due next Friday, Oct. 14, are House and Senate committee ideas for consideration by the Super Committee charged with coming up with at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts and/or revenue over ten years.

What will the House and Senate Agriculture panels do? If anything is submitted, will it be one unified report from both panels, or separate suggestions – or even separate reports from Democratic and Republican members of each panel? Based on talks with congressional insiders, there are some lingering differences between some top Ag panel leaders on what should be cut, and what should be protected, with most of the differences focusing on nutrition program funding and perhaps the degree of direct payment reductions. There could also be some differences between Democratic and Republican members of the Ag panels.

Agriculture panel members of course want to keep the budget cut total as low as possible, but they readily admit that whatever the number they eventually receive from the Super Committee, they hope the Agriculture Committees will be able to implement actual policy changes to come up with the billions of dollars in cuts needed. That includes, of course, the writing of the next farm bill. Some farm-state lawmakers would really like to have the writing of the farm bill protected from open floor amendment, especially in the House, via wrapping it into the Super Committee bill.

$15 billion? $33 billion? The total budget-cut number for agriculture is still unknown, with farm-state lawmakers hoping it won't exceed $15 billion, but worried over continued reports that the number will be much higher, perhaps the $33 billion level pushed by the Biden Commission, mentioned by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and proposed by President Obama in his recent jobs initiative.

Farm bill reformists pushing major changes for revenue assurance programs like the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program and a new program for cotton will need to use a big chunk of current direct payment funding to accomplish their goals. While House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has never commented publicly that direct payments will be reduced or not, some of his prior comments about direct payments would suggest he would not be a fan of totally eliminating them. Lucas and other farm bill leaders are careful to always point out that everything is on the table for the farm bill and the budget cut exercise ahead. It would escape reality, however, for anyone, even a lawmaker, to predict no cuts ahead for direct payments, whether they want to say that publicly or not. Also, sources close to the former Biden Commission say there was pushback by some farm-state leaders regarding that Commission's proposed elimination of direct payments. Meanwhile, staff aides to some senators have signaled low odds for totally eliminating direct payments.

Farm bill reformists pushing major changes for revenue assurance programs like Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) and a new program for cotton will need to use a big chunk of current direct payment funding to accomplish their goals. But House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and some staff have signaled that while direct payments may well be reduced, they will not likely be eliminated.

Timelines ahead. When the Super Committee receives whatever information they get from committee leaders, they will not have much time to review the recommendations. By early November the Super Committee will need to submit its proposals to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring – if it wants a detailed assessment of them by the Nov. 23 deadline for the Super Committee to issue its report/findings/CBO estimates. Other key dates are Dec. 2 when the Super Committee must submit bill language to Congress; Dec. 9, the deadline for Authorizing Committees to report out the Super Committee bill, which cannot be amended and the Authorizing Committee could vote it down, but it would still go to the floor; Dec. 23: the deadline for Congress to consider the Super Committee Bill.



NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


 


 

 

 

 

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